Thursday, October 28, 2010

Horse Stuff--Bullet

Here’s an update on the horses:

We’ll start with Bullet first. Last you heard, the Bad Boy fell at the first barrel. When he scrambled up, Kelly’s foot got stuck in the stirrup and she got dragged. I immediately went out and got her the Breakaway Stirrups. If a rider falls and gets her foot caught, they come apart and the rider can get free. So now she’s in a helmet and the emergency stirrups. I was thinking about bubble wrap next. Actually, someone tried to sell me some kind of newfangled vest-thing, not unlike bubble wrap, that inflates when the rider inadvertently disengages from the saddle. He zeroed right in on me when he saw the worried look on my face as I gave Kelly directions at a show and how I hovered and wrung my hands. He looked from me, to her helmet, to the Breakaway Stirrups, and then back to me again. He knows who his target customer is and so he came right over and demonstrated, pulling the cord on the vest, throwing himself in the dirt, and rolling like he just jumped out of a helicopter and was trying not to get shot in enemy territory. The vest popped and blew up. But I didn’t buy it. It was time for Kelly’s class so we left him there in the dirt, struggling like a turtle trying to right itself.

Even though the vest didn’t make the Bad Boy blink an eye when it exploded right in front of him, sometimes he forgets he’s twelve-years-old and still acts like he’s a colt, nearly jumping out of his skin at the mere mention of a Walmart bag. Kelly is planning to take him to a cowboy competition. So she’s been sacking him out—trying to get him desensitized to things. I think I’ve got a good little trainer on my hands.

Last week we went to a gymkhana where Kelly hit a barrel in the barrels class and also in Texas barrels. Bullet is good for this. It’s because he does a rollback. Kelly’s got to work on that. But she got a fourth place in Speed barrels and won the poles! I think it’s because of me. I’m good luck. As soon as I got there, she started kicking butt. I missed her first three classes because I had to stay home to wait for someone who was coming to look at the farm. I knew they were looky-lous when their real estate agent called and asked if she could bring them over. (We’re selling the place ourselves like we always do but we are willing to give an agent a small commission if she brings us a buyer.) I’d asked if the buyers had horses. Their agent said no. I asked if they were planning to get horses and she stammered, “Uh, uh, no, I don’t think so…” Somebody did not do their homework… hence the reason we always sell ourselves.

So I knew this was probably not a serious buyer but someone out for a weekend drive wanting to go and see the farms and look at the pretty horsies. A large part of the value of this place is the fact that it’s a turnkey horse farm. If you don’t need the horse farm part, the barns, the riding arena, the round pen, all of that, you could get a better house on a half acre lot for the same money. So I knew. But you never know. When you’re selling by-owner, you have to be on call whenever a potential buyer wants to come. Therefore, I missed Kelly’s first three classes. But that’s okay. I made her a nervous wreck anyway. “Here, let me check those stirrups… Is that strap adjusted correctly? Did you tighten your girth?” And the mother of all mothers, “Go slow. I don’t like the footing here.”

“It’s a race Mama!”

Kurt—“Leave her alone.”

Hey, at least I didn’t make her get the exploding vest.

Next week an update on the others.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bad Bugs and a Bug That Brings You Joy

I've grown to hate bugs. In Jersey, it was only the cockroach I had to worry about. And the occasional mosquito bite. But here... I've got bees the size of a man's big toe; I've got spiders you remove with pooper scoopers (well, that was actually Oklahoma); I've got ladybug infestations and stinkbugs; wood bees that are drilling my barn down; moths that are running amok; mud daubers, chiggers, superhuman ticks and don’t get me started on the flies. Anywhere you see cows, there are flies. Big flies, little flies, in-between flies, flies that give you the middle finger…

One time there was a praying mantis on the top of Kurt’s head like a jaunty hat. He looked this way and that way (the mantis, not Kurt) and was kind of cute until you remembered praying mantises cannibalize their mates after sex. What was he doing on Kurt’s head?

Kelly found a beautiful dragonfly the other day. Neon green. He was as big as my pinky. He was injured, so she brought him in the house. I said, “Very nice but this ain’t a baby bunny we can try to nurse back to health. It’s a bug!” and I made her take him back outside again. The next day when I was sweeping the front porch, I found his carcass behind the geraniums. I felt guilty. When the bugs are so big you feel bad about their deaths, it’s a problem.

I still kill them though. In Jersey, I’d scoop them up in a napkin and carry them outside where I set them free. Except the cockroaches. Here, I’ve learned that as soon as I see two of something right in a row, I’m in for an infestation. It is going to be holy hell. There is nothing cute about thousands of ladybugs crawling up the walls and across the ceiling and dropping into the mayonnaise when you’re trying to make a sandwich. This is what happened when we lived in the Amityville Horror House. Not here thank God. Here I’ve got what’s considered normal bugs for the area. Which is bad enough. A few dozen of this, a couple of that. Just enough to annoy me, sting me now and then, and make me scratch.

I like some of the bugs. Lightning bugs. Cicadas. When they make that clicking noise, it reminds me of a hot summer day. Crickets. They’re good luck. And butterflies. Butterflies remind me of my mother. She loved butterflies. She had butterfly decorations in her house and a sweatshirt with a butterfly appliqué on it. She even had a tattoo of a butterfly on her ankle. I don’t even have any tattoos and she had one. I was very proud of her for that.

The morning of her funeral, everyone was waiting in their cars to proceed to the cemetery. The funeral home guys were going back and forth carrying all the flowers out to the hearse, and the family, Kurt and I, my dad, my brother and sister and their spouses, were standing outside the door watching them, smoking cigarettes and crying. The limos were waiting for us to get in, the doors opened.

All of a sudden a big yellow butterfly flew out of the funeral home door and fluttered in and out of us. It flew all around. We all started screaming. “Look! Look! It’s Mommy!” Then it flew up, up, up over the roof and disappeared into the sky. We all watched it go.

This was in April. It was cold up in Jersey. Butterflies weren’t even out yet. And butterflies don’t live inside funeral homes. It was a sign from my mother telling us it was okay, she was still with us, maybe not in the way we were used to, but she was here. And we really needed that. None of us is religious. Some of us don’t even believe in God. How do you get comfort if you can’t tell yourself, “She is in Heaven now?” I’ve come to realize that’s one reason why religion is good. Comfort. Or else you need a good, old fashioned butterfly.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Perfect Sunday

Yesterday Pearl dragged me down to the local church (local meaning pick one on any corner), where the church ladies stuffed me with fried chicken, ham, meatloaf, biscuits, macaroni-and-cheese, scalloped potatoes, corn casserole, green beans (from Effie’s garden), banana pudding, pecan pie, something with marshmallows—you know, all the typical southern fare—and the preacher’s son and Kelly looked at each other. Then I went home and went to sleep. It was a perfect Sunday.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Moving Back to Jersey

Pearl brought me over a chocolate cream pie the other day. Pearl’s pies are completely homemade, including the crust she rolls out with, I imagine, a rolling pin. You see them on TV, the rolling pins—animals clonk each other on the heads with them in cartoons and women in aprons on black-and-white sitcoms wave them. You will also see them in antique shops. For a while there, rolling pins were all the rage, especially the ones with the colored handles—Depression-green or black like my own, or red. There were also marble rolling pins and glass rolling pins which, as you can imagine, were hard to find, glass being very breakable. Especially if you’re going to clonk someone on the head.

But I know Pearl’s got one that she actually uses to make that homemade pie crust of hers. Unless I’m getting it mixed up and the rolling pin is for making bread. I don’t know because a homemade pie in my house growing up meant my mother put a Mrs. Smith’s in the oven. Normally we’d go to the bakery. There was one on every corner. Normandy. Catanio’s. Westside Italian Bakery. And even though there were no pies better than one from the bakery, on special occasions, we got the Mrs. Smith’s because you had to turn the oven on.

I, myself, thought I was making homemade pies until I got down here and started getting Pearl’s. I actually mix things up to put into the pie crust. A can of pumpkin. Or cherries. When I got brave, I cut up apples or even stirred pecans into a mixture of melted butter, corn syrup and sugar. Now tell me that’s not homemade. But my crusts came out of a plastic package I picked up in the freezer case. And my rolling pins with the green handle and the black handle stayed on top of the kitchen cabinet strategically displayed in a wire egg basket as if I actually used these things and they weren’t just decoration.

Kurt always rates Pearl’s pies. “Good.” “Yummy.” “She outdid herself.” He said this one was exceptional. When I called her up to thank her, because you’re supposed to say thank you again after you actually eat it, not just when you get it, I told her she outdid herself. But I was suspicious.

“You’re trying to get us to stay, aren’t you?” I asked.

“You’re onto me Debi,” she laughed.

Then she said something that, perhaps if I would have known sooner, I might not have decided to go back. She said, “I thought that you and Kurt were going to stay forever and you’d take care of me and Eldon in our old age.” Like her heart was broken. I had no idea they liked us that much.

I didn’t want to tell her I was thinking the same thing. I’m motherless now. But even before that, we’re down here all alone, with no family, and Pearl and Eldon have no kids. I always had the idea of adopting them. Pearl and Eldon. Not kids. Though I wouldn’t be against adopting a child. Actually, I often think about taking in a foster child. But that’s another story. Pearl and Eldon—we have a lot in common. Eldon’s a horseman. Pearl’s a clean freak just like me and worries about everything just like I do. And then there’s those pies…

But the homesickness already set in like pitting on a brass fixture or mold on the underside of a stirrup leather. There is no stopping it. Now that I’ve made the decision, I’m like a dog who gets loose at the airport and trots all the way home, determined, obsessed, a thousand miles back to his old backyard where there’s a bone buried next to the porch and other dogs who jump up and down and practically break their necks on the ends of their leashes when they see him.

So I’m going home. That’s right. We’re selling the farm. It’s been 7 years since we left New Jersey and Kurt says we’re done playing around. We tried it, we had fun, we learned a few things (though I still can’t make a pie crust) but when I lost my mother, I really started thinking about things. What if my father gets sick? Maybe even more importantly, do I want to lose sharing whatever years he has left too? And maybe I want to get close to my sister. Maybe all of a sudden I think she’s pretty cool.

And what about Jamie? That was nagging at me anyway. What happens when she gets married? How will I go dress shopping with her? What about when she has a baby? Who will babysit? How can I get close to this kid like my mother was close to Jamie when she was little and my nana was close to me? I have memories of things just as important as knowing my nana loved me, memories of sitting with her on the front porch in the rocking chairs drinking cans of Shop-Rite soda—cream, root beer, grape, orange—on a hot summer day; and at the end of winter, standing on her tip-toes looking out the kitchen window over the sink and exclaiming to my grandfather, “Harry! Look! My crocuses are coming up!” I remember watching her dance in her hula skirt while Pop-Pop played the banjo and taking my hand, “Com’on Debi!”; trying to teach me how to crochet; studying her dream book to find out what numbers she should play and showing me her system—basically, take a guess. All of that is just as important as knowing someone loves you. It is feeling it. It is living it. You can’t have that unless you are sitting in the rocking chairs together.

Not only did I start riding shopping carts after my mother died, but I learned I didn’t really appreciate the people in my life like I should have. It is stunningly gorgeous here. I always say it’s so pretty it looks fake. But I can’t enjoy it if I’m mooning over my family. If only I could have my mother again, I would live in a roach-infested tenement with views of the brick building next door and a naked light bulb in a chicken-wire cage.

It doesn’t have to come to that. We’re going to have a farm again. But I want to go home.